Universidad de Chile rounded off a splendid week with a comprehensive 3-0 home win against O’Higgins to continue their indomitable Clausura form, creating Chilean football history in the process. Sunday evening’s win saw La U set a new record, winning nine consecutive games; beating the previous record of eight wins in a row, achieved by Cobreloa back in 1978 and more recently Colo-Cole in 2007.
During the week La U had made the trip to Uruguay to play Nacional in the Copa Sudamericana where a confident first half performance led to a two goal half-time lead – 3-0 on aggregate – before an item thrown from the home crowd, striking a linesman, saw the game suspended and tie handed to the Chilean side; a tie with Ronaldinho’s Flamengo awaits in the last 16 of the tournament.
O’Higgins, now seven games without a win, were already a goal down from an Eduardo Vargas strike before their task became torturous when Alejandro Lopez was shown a straight red. A goal from Francisco Castro and second from Vargas were added after half-time in a second half which resembled a training match at points.
La U were showing no signs of tiredness at the start of the game, committing men forward in their fluid 4-3-3 formation, even allowing for both full-backs to venture forward, albeit only one at a time. However it was O’Higgins that created the games first meaningful chance as they exploited the space vacated by right-back Matias Rodriguez who had narrowed to close down as the away side counter-attacked. Alejandro Lopez, having charged forward, was played in down the left but his shot from the edge of the box was pushed away to safety by La U’s ‘keeper Jhonny Herrera.
The home side had to wait until the 19th minute to record their first telling chance. Rodriguez rising highest to meet a cross from the left but O’Higgins goalkeeper, and captain, Luis Marin was equal to it, saving down to his left.
A minute later and Marin was picking the ball out from the back of his net and Rodriguez was involved again. This time finding Los Azules (The Blues) danger-man Gustavo Lorenzetti in space. In one motion he collected the ball, swivelled and slipped a lovely reverse pass into the path of Eduardo Vargas coming in off the right-hand side. The Chilean international took the ball in his stride beating two defenders in quick succession before putting his laces through the ball, giving Marin no time at all to react.
O’Higgins’ already uphill battle got a lot more arduous when Lopez was given a straight red –despite having already been booked – for leading with his arm in an aerial challenge with Rodriguez. Although a straight red card could be argued as harsh it was definitely worthy of a second yellow especially as his momentum saw his head follow through and connect with La U’s roving right-back.
Charles Aránguiz took the resulting free-kick and his delicious delivery found the head of defender Osvaldo González. His powerful header was acrobatically tipped over the bar by Marin.
O’Higgins showed sporadic signs of life in an attacking sense; breaking with pace through the lively Esteban Carvajal without causing Herrera in the Universidad goal any real problems. However the visitors from Rancagua did have the ball in the back of the net after 38 minutes but it was ruled out, Juan Luis Gonzalez only the five yards offside.
Moments before the half-time break Marin once again thwarted La U and it was unsurprising that Lorenzetti and Aranguiz were involved, interchanging to set-up Vargas coming from the right. Turning well on the edge of the box his shot was easy for Marin to beat away.
The game was finished on the 50th minute mark as La U doubled their lead and O’Higgins only had themselves to blame. A corner was not cleared properly, possession ceded cheaply and the ball was fed back to Lorenzetti who – like he had done all game – had found ample space to turn into and supply the killer pass. This time it was Francisco Castro accepting the measured assist to slide pass Marin.
After the goal the game’s intensity fell and with it the quality and rhythm as both teams began to concede possession far too easily. None more so was this evident for the third goal of the game. Although the player at fault was surprising; having kept the score down almost single handily Luis Marin fluffed a simple clearance straight to the feet of Vargas. The forward still had much to do but he did it perfectly. Collecting the ball 30 yards out he drove to the edge of the box before letting fly into the top left hand corner. Marin did not even attempt the save.
That was the 21-year-olds 5th goal of the Clausura and his 4th in 3 league games.
O’Higgins’ difficult search for a consolation was compounded late on when a second goal was disallowed; Sebastián Pinto this time straying offside.
Defeat leaves O’Higgins looking over their shoulder in 12th place on ten points, only three points from bottom. Although because relegation is calculated over the two championships – Apertura and Clausura – La Celeste (The Sky Blue) should be save having finished 5th in the Apertura; making the play-offs.
Both teams are in action on Wednesday as O’Higgins welcome Universidad de Concepćion to the Estadio El Teniente while La U travel to the city of Valparaiso to take on Santiago Wanderers.
Man of the Match: Gustavo Lorenzetti